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EN BANC

BRICCIO Ricky A. POLLO, Petitioner,

G.R. No. 181881

Present:

CORONA, C.J., CARPIO, VELASCO, JR., - versus LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, BRION, PERALTA, BERSAMIN, DEL CASTILLO, ABAD, VILLARAMA, JR., CHAIRPERSON KARINA CONSTANTINO-DAVID, DIRECTOR IV RACQUEL DE

PEREZ, MENDOZA,

No part.

GUZMAN BUENSALIDA, DIRECTOR IV LYDIA A. CASTILLO, DIRECTOR III

SERENO, REYES, and PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.

ENGELBERT ANTHONY D. UNITE AND THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, Respondents.

Promulgated:

October 18, 2011

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.: This case involves a search of office computer assigned to a government employee who was charged administratively and eventually dismissed from the service. The employees personal files stored in the computer were used by the government employer as evidence of misconduct. Before us is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 which seeks to reverse and set aside the Decision1[1] dated October 11, 2007 and Resolution2[2]
1[1] Rollo, pp. 63-83. Penned by Associate Justice Romeo F. Barza, with Associate Justices Mariano C. Del Castillo (now a Member of this Court) and Arcangelita M. Romilla-Lontok concurring. Id. at 85.

2[2]

dated February 29, 2008 of the Court of Appeals (CA). The CA dismissed the petition for certiorari (CA-G.R. SP No. 98224) filed by petitioner Briccio Ricky A. Pollo to nullify the proceedings conducted by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) which found him guilty of dishonesty, grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and violation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6713 and penalized him with dismissal. The factual antecedents: Petitioner is a former Supervising Personnel Specialist of the CSC Regional Office No. IV and also the Officer-in-Charge of the Public Assistance and Liaison Division (PALD) under the Mamamayan Muna Hindi Mamaya Na program of the CSC. On January 3, 2007 at around 2:30 p.m., an unsigned letter-complaint addressed to respondent CSC Chairperson Karina Constantino-David which was marked Confidential and sent through a courier service (LBC) from a certain Alan San Pascual of Bagong Silang, Caloocan City, was received by the Integrated Records Management Office (IRMO) at the CSC Central Office. Following office practice in which documents marked Confidential are left unopened and instead sent to the addressee, the aforesaid letter was given directly to Chairperson David. The letter-complaint reads:
The Chairwoman Civil Service Commission Batasan Hills, Quezon City Dear Madam Chairwoman,

Belated Merry Christmas and Advance Happy New Year! As a concerned citizen of my beloved country, I would like to ask from you personally if it is just alright for an employee of your agency to be a lawyer of an accused govt employee having a pending case in the csc. I honestly think this is a violation of law and unfair to others and your office. I have known that a person have been lawyered by one of your attorny in the region 4 office. He is the chief of the Mamamayan muna hindi mamaya na division. He have been helping many who have pending cases in the Csc. The justice in our govt system will not be served if this will continue. Please investigate this anomaly because our perception of your clean and good office is being tainted. Concerned Govt employee3[3]

Chairperson David immediately formed a team of four personnel with background in information technology (IT), and issued a memo directing them to conduct an investigation and specifically to back up all the files in the computers found in the Mamamayan Muna (PALD) and Legal divisions.4[4] After some briefing, the team proceeded at once to the CSC-ROIV office at Panay Avenue, Quezon City. Upon their arrival thereat around 5:30 p.m., the team informed the officials of the CSC-ROIV, respondents Director IV Lydia Castillo (Director Castillo) and Director III Engelbert Unite (Director Unite) of Chairperson Davids directive. The backing-up of all files in the hard disk of computers at the PALD and Legal Services Division (LSD) was witnessed by several employees, together with Directors Castillo and Unite who closely monitored said activity. At around 6:00 p.m., Director Unite sent text messages to petitioner and the head of LSD, who
3[3] 4[4] Id. at 306. Id. at 305.

were both out of the office at the time, informing them of the ongoing copying of computer files in their divisions upon orders of the CSC Chair. The text messages received by petitioner read:
Gud p.m. This is Atty. Unite FYI: Co people are going over the PCs of PALD and LSD per instruction of the Chairman. If you can make it here now it would be better. All PCs Of PALD and LSD are being backed up per memo of the chair. CO IT people arrived just now for this purpose. We were not also informed about this. We cant do anything about it its a directive from chair. Memo of the chair was referring to an anonymous complaint; ill send a copy of the memo via mms5[5]

Petitioner replied also thru text message that he was leaving the matter to Director Unite and that he will just get a lawyer. Another text message received by petitioner from PALD staff also reported the presence of the team from CSC main office: Sir may mga taga C.O. daw sa kuarto natin.6[6] At around 10:00 p.m. of the same day, the investigating team finished their task. The next day, all the computers in the PALD were sealed and secured for the purpose of preserving all the files stored therein. Several diskettes containing the back-up files sourced from the hard disk of PALD and LSD computers were turned over to Chairperson David. The contents of the diskettes were examined by the CSCs Office for Legal Affairs (OLA). It was found that most of the files in the 17 diskettes containing files copied from the computer assigned to and being used by the petitioner,

5[5] 6[6]

CA rollo, p. 56. Id.

numbering about 40 to 42 documents, were draft pleadings or letters7[7] in connection with administrative cases in the CSC and other tribunals. On the basis of this finding, Chairperson David issued the Show-Cause Order8[8] dated January 11, 2007, requiring the petitioner, who had gone on extended leave, to submit his explanation or counter-affidavit within five days from notice. Evaluating the subject documents obtained from petitioners personal files, Chairperson David made the following observations:
Most of the foregoing files are drafts of legal pleadings or documents that are related to or connected with administrative cases that may broadly be lumped as pending either in the CSCRO No. IV, the CSC-NCR, the CSC-Central Office or other tribunals. It is also of note that most of these draft pleadings are for and on behalves of parties, who are facing charges as respondents in administrative cases. This gives rise to the inference that the one who prepared them was knowingly, deliberately and willfully aiding and advancing interests adverse and inimical to the interest of the CSC as the central personnel agency of the government tasked to discipline misfeasance and malfeasance in the government service. The number of pleadings so prepared further demonstrates that such person is not merely engaged in an isolated practice but pursues it with seeming regularity. It would also be the height of naivete or credulity, and certainly against common human experience, to believe that the person concerned had engaged in this customary practice without any consideration, and in fact, one of the retrieved files (item 13 above) appears to insinuate the collection of fees. That these draft pleadings were obtained from the computer assigned to Pollo invariably raises the presumption that he was the one responsible or had a hand in their drafting or preparation since the computer of origin was within his direct control and disposition.9[9]

Petitioner filed his Comment, denying that he is the person referred to in the anonymous letter-complaint which had no attachments to it, because he is not a

7[7] 8[8] 9[9]

Id. at 21-24. Id. at 20-25. Id. at 25.

lawyer and neither is he lawyering for people with cases in the CSC. He accused CSC officials of conducting a fishing expedition when they unlawfully copied and printed personal files in his computer, and subsequently asking him to submit his comment which violated his right against self-incrimination. He asserted that he had protested the unlawful taking of his computer done while he was on leave, citing the letter dated January 8, 2007 in which he informed Director Castillo that the files in his computer were his personal files and those of his sister, relatives, friends and some associates and that he is not authorizing their sealing, copying, duplicating and printing as these would violate his constitutional right to privacy and protection against self-incrimination and warrantless search and seizure. He pointed out that though government property, the temporary use and ownership of the computer issued under a Memorandum of Receipt (MR) is ceded to the employee who may exercise all attributes of ownership, including its use for personal purposes. As to the anonymous letter, petitioner argued that it is not actionable as it failed to comply with the requirements of a formal complaint under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (URACC). In view of the illegal search, the files/documents copied from his computer without his consent is thus inadmissible as evidence, being fruits of a poisonous tree.10[10]

On February 26, 2007, the CSC issued Resolution No. 07038211[11] finding prima facie case against the petitioner and charging him with Dishonesty, Grave
10[10] Id. at 55-62. 11[11] Id. at 26-33. Chairperson Karina Constantino-David and Commissioner Mary Ann Z. Fernandez-Mendoza concurred in ruling that a prima facie case existed against petitioner while Commissioner Cesar D. Buenaflor dissented [see Memorandum (OCOM-C Memo No. 14, s. 2007, CA rollo, pp. 431-434).

Misconduct, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and Violation of R.A. No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees). Petitioner was directed to submit his answer under oath within five days from notice and indicate whether he elects a formal investigation. Since the charges fall under Section 19 of the URACC, petitioner was likewise placed under 90 days preventive suspension effective immediately upon receipt of the resolution. Petitioner received a copy of Resolution No. 070382 on March 1, 2007.

Petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion (For Reconsideration, to Dismiss and/or to Defer) assailing the formal charge as without basis having proceeded from an illegal search which is beyond the authority of the CSC Chairman, such power pertaining solely to the court. Petitioner reiterated that he never aided any people with pending cases at the CSC and alleged that those files found in his computer were prepared not by him but by certain persons whom he permitted, at one time or another, to make use of his computer out of close association or friendship. Attached to the motion were the affidavit of Atty. Ponciano R. Solosa who entrusted his own files to be kept at petitioners CPU and Atty. Eric N. Estrellado, the latter being Atty. Solosas client who attested that petitioner had nothing to do with the pleadings or bill for legal fees because in truth he owed legal fees to Atty. Solosa and not to petitioner. Petitioner contended that the case should be deferred in view of the prejudicial question raised in the criminal complaint he filed before the Ombudsman against Director Buensalida, whom petitioner believes had instigated this administrative case. He also prayed for the lifting of the preventive suspension imposed on him. In its Resolution No. 07051912[12] dated March 19,
12[12] CSC records, pp. 71-l to 71-n. Chairperson Karina Constantino-David and Commissioner Mary Ann Z. Fernandez-Mendoza concurred in the denial of the omnibus motion while Commissioner Cesar D. Buenaflor reiterated his dissent.

2007, the CSC denied the omnibus motion. The CSC resolved to treat the said motion as petitioners answer. On March 14, 2007, petitioner filed an Urgent Petition13[13] under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 98224, assailing both the January 11, 2007 Show-Cause Order and Resolution No. 070382 dated February 26, 2007 as having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or total absence of jurisdiction. Prior to this, however, petitioner lodged an administrative/criminal complaint against respondents Directors Racquel D.G. Buensalida (Chief of Staff, Office of the CSC Chairman) and Lydia A. Castillo (CSC-RO IV) before the Office of the Ombudsman, and a separate complaint for disbarment against Director Buensalida.14[14] On April 17, 2007, petitioner received a notice of hearing from the CSC setting the formal investigation of the case on April 30, 2007. On April 25, 2007, he filed in the CA an Urgent Motion for the issuance of TRO and preliminary injunction.15[15] Since he failed to attend the pre-hearing conference scheduled on April 30, 2007, the CSC reset the same to May 17, 2007 with warning that the failure of petitioner and/or his counsel to appear in the said pre-hearing conference shall entitle the prosecution to proceed with the formal investigation exparte.16[16] Petitioner moved to defer or to reset the pre-hearing conference, claiming that the investigation proceedings should be held in abeyance pending the
13[13] CA rollo, pp. 2-19. 14[14] Id. at 288-294, 321-325. 15[15] Id. at 336-340. 16[16] Id. at 373.

resolution of his petition by the CA. The CSC denied his request and again scheduled the pre-hearing conference on May 18, 2007 with similar warning on the consequences of petitioner and/or his counsels non-appearance.17[17] This prompted petitioner to file another motion in the CA, to cite the respondents, including the hearing officer, in indirect contempt.18[18] On June 12, 2007, the CSC issued Resolution No. 07113419[19] denying petitioners motion to set aside the denial of his motion to defer the proceedings and to inhibit the designated hearing officer, Atty. Bernard G. Jimenez. The hearing officer was directed to proceed with the investigation proper with dispatch. In view of the absence of petitioner and his counsel, and upon the motion of the prosecution, petitioner was deemed to have waived his right to the formal investigation which then proceeded ex parte. On July 24, 2007, the CSC issued Resolution No. 071420,20[20] the dispositive part of which reads:
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the Commission hereby finds Briccio A. Pollo, a.k.a. Ricky A. Pollo GUILTY of Dishonesty, Grave 17[17] Id. at 376-378. 18[18] Id. at 388-392. 19[19] Id. at 457-463. Chairperson Karina Constantino-David and Commissioner Mary Ann Z. Fernandez-Mendoza concurred in denying the motion while Commissioner Cesar D. Buenaflor dissented stating that based on his dissenting position, any subsequent proceedings in this case is of no moment since the initiatory proceedings was in violation of a persons fundamental rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. (Id. at 465.) 20[20] Id. at 586-618. Chairperson Karina Constantino-David and Commissioner Mary Ann Z. Fernandez-Mendoza concurred in ruling that petitioner is guilty as charged while Commissioner Cesar D. Buenaflor maintained his dissent.

Misconduct, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and Violation of Republic Act 6713. He is meted the penalty of DISMISSAL FROM THE SERVICE with all its accessory penalties, namely, disqualification to hold public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits, cancellation of civil service eligibilities and bar from taking future civil service examinations.21[21]

On the paramount issue of the legality of the search conducted on petitioners computer, the CSC noted the dearth of jurisprudence relevant to the factual milieu of this case where the government as employer invades the private files of an employee stored in the computer assigned to him for his official use, in the course of initial investigation of possible misconduct committed by said employee and without the latters consent or participation. The CSC thus turned to relevant rulings of the United States Supreme Court, and cited the leading case of OConnor v. Ortega22[22] as authority for the view that government agencies, in their capacity as employers, rather than law enforcers, could validly conduct search and seizure in the governmental workplace without meeting the probable cause or warrant requirement for search and seizure. Another ruling cited by the CSC is the more recent case of United States v. Mark L. Simons23[23] which declared that the federal agencys computer use policy foreclosed any inference of reasonable expectation of privacy on the part of its employees. Though the Court therein recognized that such policy did not, at the same time, erode the respondents legitimate expectation of privacy in the office in which the computer was installed, still, the warrantless search of the employees office was upheld as valid because a government employer is entitled to conduct a warrantless search pursuant to an

21[21] Id. at 618. 22[22] 480 U.S. 709 (1987). 23[23] 206 F.3d 392 (4th Cir. 2000).

investigation of work-related misconduct provided the search is reasonable in its inception and scope. With the foregoing American jurisprudence as benchmark, the CSC held that petitioner has no reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to the computer he was using in the regional office in view of the CSC computer use policy which unequivocally declared that a CSC employee cannot assert any privacy right to a computer assigned to him. Even assuming that there was no such administrative policy, the CSC was of the view that the search of petitioners computer successfully passed the test of reasonableness for warrantless searches in the workplace as enunciated in the aforecited authorities. The CSC stressed that it pursued the search in its capacity as government employer and that it was undertaken in connection with an investigation involving work-related misconduct, which exempts it from the warrant requirement under the Constitution. With the matter of admissibility of the evidence having been resolved, the CSC then ruled that the totality of evidence adequately supports the charges of grave misconduct, dishonesty, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and violation of R.A. No. 6713 against the petitioner. These grave infractions justified petitioners dismissal from the service with all its accessory penalties. In his Memorandum24[24] filed in the CA, petitioner moved to incorporate the above resolution dismissing him from the service in his main petition, in lieu of the filing of an appeal via a Rule 43 petition. In a subsequent motion, he likewise

24[24] Id. at 560-585.

prayed for the inclusion of Resolution No. 07180025[25] which denied his motion for reconsideration. By Decision dated October 11, 2007, the CA dismissed the petition for certiorari after finding no grave abuse of discretion committed by respondents CSC officials. The CA held that: (1) petitioner was not charged on the basis of the anonymous letter but from the initiative of the CSC after a fact-finding investigation was conducted and the results thereof yielded a prima facie case against him; (2) it could not be said that in ordering the back-up of files in petitioners computer and later confiscating the same, Chairperson David had encroached on the authority of a judge in view of the CSC computer policy declaring the computers as government property and that employee-users thereof have no reasonable expectation of privacy in anything they create, store, send, or receive on the computer system; and (3) there is nothing contemptuous in CSCs act of proceeding with the formal investigation as there was no restraining order or injunction issued by the CA. His motion for reconsideration having been denied by the CA, petitioner brought this appeal arguing that
I THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRIEVOUSLY ERRED AND COMMITTED SERIOUS IRREGULARITY AND BLATANT ERRORS IN LAW AMOUNTING TO GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT RULED THAT ANONYMOUS COMPLAINT IS ACTIONABLE UNDER E.O. 292 WHEN IN TRUTH AND IN FACT THE CONTRARY IS EXPLICITLY 25[25] Id. at 707-719. Chairperson Karina Constantino-David and Commissioner Mary Ann Z. Fernandez-Mendoza concurred in the denial of the motion for reconsideration while Commissioner Cesar D. Buenaflor reiterated his dissent under his Addendum to the Dissenting Position Under OCOM-C Memo No. 14, S. 2007. (Id. at 720.)

PROVIDED UNDER 2nd PARAGRAPH OF SECTION 8 OF CSC RESOLUTION NO. 99-1936, WHICH IS AN [AMENDMENT] TO THE ORIGINAL RULES PER CSC RESOLUTION NO. 94-0521; II THE HONORABLE COURT GRIEVOUSLY ERRED AND COMMITTED PALPABLE ERRORS IN LAW AMOUNTING TO GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT RULED THAT PETITIONER CANNOT INVOKE HIS RIGHT TO PRIVACY, TO UNREASONABLE SEARCH AND SEIZURE, AGAINST SELF-INCRIMINATION, BY VIRTUE OF OFFICE MEMORANDUM NO. 10 S. 2002, A MERE INTERNAL MEMORANDUM SIGNED SOLELY AND EXCLUSIVELY BY RESPONDENT DAVID AND NOT BY THE COLLEGIAL COMMISSION CONSIDERING THAT POLICY MATTERS INVOLVING SUB[S]TANTIAL RIGHTS CANNOT BE COVERED BY AN OFFICE MEMORANDUM WHICH IS LIMITED TO PROCEDURAL AND ROUTINARY INSTRUCTION; III THE HONORABLE COURT GRAVELY ERRED AND COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT RULED THAT MEMO SEARCH DATED JANUARY 3, 2007 AND THE TAKING OF DOCUMENTS IN THE EVENING THEREOF FROM 7:00 TO 10:00 P.M. IS NOT GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION LIMITING THE DEFINITION [OF] GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION TO ONE INVOLVING AND TAINTED WITH PERSONAL HOSTILITY. IT LIKEWISE ERRED IN HOLDING THAT DATA STORED IN THE GOVERNMENT COMPUTERS ARE GOVERNMENT PROPERTIES INCLUDING THE PERSONAL FILES WHEN THE CONTRARY IS PROVIDED UNDER SECTION 14 OF OM. 10 s. 2002. AND GRIEVOUSLY ERRED STILL WHEN IT RULED THAT RESPONDENT DAVID BY VIRTUE OF O.M. 10 DID NOT ENCROACH ON THE DUTIES AND FUNCTIONS OF A JUDGE PURSUANT TO ARTICLE III, SECTION 2 OF THE 1987 PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION; IV THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED WHEN IT FAILED TO CONSIDER ALL OTHER NEW ARGUMENTS, ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE HEREUNTO SUBMITTED AS WELL AS ITS FAILURE TO EVALUATE AND TAKE ACTION ON THE 2 MOTIONS TO ADMIT AND INCORPORATE CSC RESOLUTION NOS. 07-1420 DATED JULY 24, 2007 AND CSC RESOLUTION 07-1800 DATED SEPTEMBER 10, 2007. IT DID NOT RULE LIKEWISE ON THE FOUR URGENT MOTION TO RESOLVE ANCILLARY PRAYER FOR TRO.26[26] 26[26] Rollo, p. 19.

Squarely raised by the petitioner is the legality of the search conducted on his office computer and the copying of his personal files without his knowledge and consent, alleged as a transgression on his constitutional right to privacy. The right to privacy has been accorded recognition in this jurisdiction as a facet of the right protected by the guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure under Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution,27[27] which provides:
SEC. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

The constitutional guarantee is not a prohibition of all searches and seizures but only of unreasonable searches and seizures.28[28] But to fully understand this concept and application for the purpose of resolving the issue at hand, it is essential that we examine the doctrine in the light of pronouncements in another jurisdiction. As the Court declared in People v. Marti29[29]:
Our present constitutional provision on the guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure had its origin in the 1935 Charter which, worded as follows:

27[27] Social Justice Society (SJS) v. Dangerous Drugs Board, G.R. Nos. 157870, 158633 and 161658, November 3, 2008, 570 SCRA 410, 427, citing Ople v. Torres, G.R. No. 127685, July 23, 1998, 293 SCRA 141, 169. 28[28] Joaquin Bernas, S.J., THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES: A COMMENTARY, 2003 ed., p. 162. 29[29] G.R. No. 81561, January 18, 1991, 193 SCRA 57.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, to be determined by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (Sec. 1[3], Article III) was in turn derived almost verbatim from the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. As such, the Court may turn to the pronouncements of the United States Federal Supreme Court and State Appellate Courts which are considered doctrinal in this jurisdiction.30[30]

In the 1967 case of Katz v. United States,31[31] the US Supreme Court held that the act of FBI agents in electronically recording a conversation made by petitioner in an enclosed public telephone booth violated his right to privacy and constituted a search and seizure. Because the petitioner had a reasonable expectation of privacy in using the enclosed booth to make a personal telephone call, the protection of the Fourth Amendment extends to such area. In the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Harlan, it was further noted that the existence of privacy right under prior decisions involved a two-fold requirement: first, that a person has exhibited an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy; and second, that the expectation be one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable (objective).32[32] In Mancusi v. DeForte33[33] which addressed the reasonable expectations of private employees in the workplace, the US Supreme Court held that a union
30[30] Id. at 63. 31[31] 389 U.S. 437 (1967). 32[32] Id. 33[33] 392 U.S. 364, 88 S.Ct. 2120, 20 L.Ed2d 1154 (1968).

employee had Fourth Amendment rights with regard to an office at union headquarters that he shared with other union officials, even as the latter or their guests could enter the office. The Court thus recognized that employees may have a reasonable expectation of privacy against intrusions by police. That the Fourth Amendment equally applies to a government workplace was addressed in the 1987 case of OConnor v. Ortega34[34] where a physician, Dr. Magno Ortega, who was employed by a state hospital, claimed a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights when hospital officials investigating charges of mismanagement of the psychiatric residency program, sexual harassment of female hospital employees and other irregularities involving his private patients under the state medical aid program, searched his office and seized personal items from his desk and filing cabinets. In that case, the Court categorically declared that [i]ndividuals do not lose Fourth Amendment rights merely because they work for the government instead of a private employer.35[35] A plurality of four Justices concurred that the correct analysis has two steps: first, because some government offices may be so open to fellow employees or the public that no expectation of privacy is reasonable, a court must consider [t]he operational realities of the workplace in order to determine whether an employees Fourth Amendment rights are implicated; and next, where an employee has a legitimate privacy expectation, an employers intrusion on that expectation for noninvestigatory, work-related purposes, as well as for investigations of work-related misconduct,

34[34] Supra note 22. 35[35] Id. at 717.

should be judged by the standard of reasonableness under all the circumstances.36[36] On the matter of government employees reasonable expectations of privacy in their workplace, OConnor teaches:
x x x Public employees expectations of privacy in their offices, desks, and file cabinets, like similar expectations of employees in the private sector, may be reduced by virtue of actual office practices and procedures, or by legitimate regulation. x x x The employees expectation of privacy must be assessed in the context of the employment relation. An office is seldom a private enclave free from entry by supervisors, other employees, and business and personal invitees. Instead, in many cases offices are continually entered by fellow employees and other visitors during the workday for conferences, consultations, and other workrelated visits. Simply put, it is the nature of government offices that others such as fellow employees, supervisors, consensual visitors, and the general public may have frequent access to an individuals office. We agree with JUSTICE SCALIA that [c]onstitutional protection against unreasonable searches by the government does not disappear merely because the government has the right to make reasonable intrusions in its capacity as employer, x x x but some government offices may be so open to fellow employees or the public that no expectation of privacy is reasonable. x x x Given the great variety of work environments in the public sector, the question of whether an employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy must be addressed on a case-by-case basis.37[37] (Citations omitted; emphasis supplied.)

On the basis of the established rule in previous cases, the US Supreme Court declared that Dr. Ortegas Fourth Amendment rights are implicated only if the conduct of the hospital officials infringed an expectation of privacy that society is prepared to consider as reasonable. Given the undisputed evidence that respondent Dr. Ortega did not share his desk or file cabinets with any other employees, kept personal correspondence and other private items in his own office while those work-related files (on physicians in residency training) were stored
36[36] City of Ontario, Cal. v. Quon, 130 S.Ct. 2619, U.S. 2010, June 17, 2010. 37[37] Supra note 22 at 717-718.

outside his office, and there being no evidence that the hospital had established any reasonable regulation or policy discouraging employees from storing personal papers and effects in their desks or file cabinets (although the absence of such a policy does not create any expectation of privacy where it would not otherwise exist), the Court concluded that Dr. Ortega has a reasonable expectation of privacy at least in his desk and file cabinets.38[38] Proceeding to the next inquiry as to whether the search conducted by hospital officials was reasonable, the OConnor plurality decision discussed the following principles:
Having determined that Dr. Ortega had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his office, the Court of Appeals simply concluded without discussion that the searchwas not a reasonable search under the fourth amendment. x x x [t]o hold that the Fourth Amendment applies to searches conducted by [public employers] is only to begin the inquiry into the standards governing such searches[W]hat is reasonable depends on the context within which a search takes place. x x x Thus, we must determine the appropriate standard of reasonableness applicable to the search. A determination of the standard of reasonableness applicable to a particular class of searches requires balanc[ing] the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individuals Fourth Amendment interests against the importance of the governmental interests alleged to justify the intrusion. x x x In the case of searches conducted by a public employer, we must balance the invasion of the employees legitimate expectations of privacy against the governments need for supervision, control, and the efficient operation of the workplace. xxxx In our view, requiring an employer to obtain a warrant whenever the employer wished to enter an employees office, desk, or file cabinets for a workrelated purpose would seriously disrupt the routine conduct of business and would be unduly burdensome. Imposing unwieldy warrant procedures in such cases upon supervisors, who would otherwise have no reason to be familiar with such procedures, is simply unreasonable. In contrast to other circumstances in which we have required warrants, supervisors in offices such as at the Hospital are hardly in the business of investigating the violation of criminal laws. Rather, 38[38] Id. at 718-719.

work-related searches are merely incident to the primary business of the agency. Under these circumstances, the imposition of a warrant requirement would conflict with the common-sense realization that government offices could not function if every employment decision became a constitutional matter. x x x xxxx The governmental interest justifying work-related intrusions by public employers is the efficient and proper operation of the workplace. Government agencies provide myriad services to the public, and the work of these agencies would suffer if employers were required to have probable cause before they entered an employees desk for the purpose of finding a file or piece of office correspondence. Indeed, it is difficult to give the concept of probable cause, rooted as it is in the criminal investigatory context, much meaning when the purpose of a search is to retrieve a file for work-related reasons. Similarly, the concept of probable cause has little meaning for a routine inventory conducted by public employers for the purpose of securing state property. x x x To ensure the efficient and proper operation of the agency, therefore, public employers must be given wide latitude to enter employee offices for work-related, noninvestigatory reasons. We come to a similar conclusion for searches conducted pursuant to an investigation of work-related employee misconduct. Even when employers conduct an investigation, they have an interest substantially different from the normal need for law enforcement. x x x Public employers have an interest in ensuring that their agencies operate in an effective and efficient manner, and the work of these agencies inevitably suffers from the inefficiency, incompetence, mismanagement, or other work-related misfeasance of its employees. Indeed, in many cases, public employees are entrusted with tremendous responsibility, and the consequences of their misconduct or incompetence to both the agency and the public interest can be severe. In contrast to law enforcement officials, therefore, public employers are not enforcers of the criminal law; instead, public employers have a direct and overriding interest in ensuring that the work of the agency is conducted in a proper and efficient manner. In our view, therefore, a probable cause requirement for searches of the type at issue here would impose intolerable burdens on public employers. The delay in correcting the employee misconduct caused by the need for probable cause rather than reasonable suspicion will be translated into tangible and often irreparable damage to the agencys work, and ultimately to the public interest. x x x xxxx In sum, we conclude that the special needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement make theprobable-cause requirement impracticable, x x x for legitimate, work-related noninvestigatory intrusions as well as investigations of work-related misconduct. A standard of reasonableness will neither unduly burden the efforts of government employers to ensure the efficient

and proper operation of the workplace, nor authorize arbitrary intrusions upon the privacy of public employees. We hold, therefore, that public employer intrusions on the constitutionally protected privacy interests of government employees for noninvestigatory, work-related purposes, as well as for investigations of work-related misconduct, should be judged by the standard of reasonableness under all the circumstances. Under this reasonableness standard, both the inception and the scope of the intrusion must be reasonable: Determining the reasonableness of any search involves a twofold inquiry: first, one must consider whether theaction was justified at its inception, x x x ; second, one must determine whether the search as actually conducted was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place, x x x Ordinarily, a search of an employees office by a supervisor will be justified at its inception when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the employee is guilty of workrelated misconduct, or that the search is necessary for a noninvestigatory work-related purpose such as to retrieve a needed file. x x x The search will be permissible in its scope when the measures adopted are reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not excessively intrusive in light of the nature of the [misconduct]. x x x39[39] (Citations omitted; emphasis supplied.)

Since the District Court granted summary judgment without a hearing on the factual dispute as to the character of the search and neither was there any finding made as to the scope of the search that was undertaken, the case was remanded to said court for the determination of the justification for the search and seizure, and evaluation of the reasonableness of both the inception of the search and its scope. In OConnor the Court recognized that special needs authorize warrantless searches involving public employees for work-related reasons. The Court thus laid down a balancing test under which government interests are weighed against the employees reasonable expectation of privacy. This reasonableness test implicates
39[39] Id. at 719, 722-725.

neither probable cause nor the warrant requirement, which are related to law enforcement.40[40] OConnor was applied in subsequent cases raising issues on employees privacy rights in the workplace. One of these cases involved a government employers search of an office computer, United States v. Mark L. Simons41[41] where the defendant Simons, an employee of a division of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was convicted of receiving and possessing materials containing child pornography. Simons was provided with an office which he did not share with anyone, and a computer with Internet access. The agency had instituted a policy on computer use stating that employees were to use the Internet for official government business only and that accessing unlawful material was specifically prohibited. The policy also stated that users shall understand that the agency will periodically audit, inspect, and/or monitor the users Internet access as deemed appropriate. CIA agents instructed its contractor for the management of the agencys computer network, upon initial discovery of prohibited internet activity originating from Simons computer, to conduct a remote monitoring and examination of Simons computer. After confirming that Simons had indeed downloaded pictures that were pornographic in nature, all the files on the hard drive of Simons computer were copied from a remote work station. Days later, the contractors representative finally entered Simons office, removed the original hard drive on Simons computer, replaced it with a copy, and gave the original to the agency security officer. Thereafter, the agency secured warrants and searched Simons office in the evening when Simons was not around. The search team
40[40] Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, C.A. (Md), December 2, 2009. 41[41] Supra note 23.

copied the contents of Simons computer; computer diskettes found in Simons desk drawer; computer files stored on the zip drive or on zip drive diskettes; videotapes; and various documents, including personal correspondence. At his trial, Simons moved to suppress these evidence, arguing that the searches of his office and computer violated his Fourth Amendment rights. After a hearing, the district court denied the motion and Simons was found guilty as charged. Simons appealed his convictions. The US Supreme Court ruled that the searches of Simons computer and office did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights and the first search warrant was valid. It held that the search remains valid under the OConnor exception to the warrant requirement because evidence of the crime was discovered in the course of an otherwise proper administrative inspection. Simons violation of the agencys Internet policy happened also to be a violation of criminal law; this does not mean that said employer lost the capacity and interests of an employer. The warrantless entry into Simons office was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment standard announced in OConnor because at the inception of the search, the employer had reasonable grounds for suspecting that the hard drive would yield evidence of misconduct, as the employer was already aware that Simons had misused his Internet access to download over a thousand pornographic images. The retrieval of the hard drive was reasonably related to the objective of the search, and the search was not excessively intrusive. Thus, while Simons had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his office, he did not have such legitimate expectation of privacy with regard to the files in his computer.
x x x To establish a violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment, Simons must first prove that he had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place searched or the item seized. x x x And, in order to prove a legitimate

expectation of privacy, Simons must show that his subjective expectation of privacy is one that society is prepared to accept as objectively reasonable. x x x xxxx x x x We conclude that the remote searches of Simons computer did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights because, in light of the Internet policy, Simons lacked a legitimate expectation of privacy in the files downloaded from the Internet. Additionally, we conclude that Simons Fourth Amendment rights were not violated by FBIS retrieval of Simons hard drive from his office. Simons did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy with regard to the record or fruits of his Internet use in light of the FBIS Internet policy. The policy clearly stated that FBIS would audit, inspect, and/or monitor employees use of the Internet, including all file transfers, all websites visited, and all e-mail messages, as deemed appropriate. x x x This policy placed employees on notice that they could not reasonably expect that their Internet activity would be private. Therefore, regardless of whether Simons subjectively believed that the files he transferred from the Internet were private, such a belief was not objectively reasonable after FBIS notified him that it would be overseeing his Internet use. x x x Accordingly, FBIS actions in remotely searching and seizing the computer files Simons downloaded from the Internet did not violate the Fourth Amendment. xxxx The burden is on Simons to prove that he had a legitimate expectation of privacy in his office. x x x Here, Simons has shown that he had an office that he did not share. As noted above, the operational realities of Simons workplace may have diminished his legitimate privacy expectations. However, there is no evidence in the record of any workplace practices, procedures, or regulations that had such an effect. We therefore conclude that, on this record, Simons possessed a legitimate expectation of privacy in his office. xxxx In the final analysis, this case involves an employees supervisor entering the employees government office and retrieving a piece of government equipment in which the employee had absolutely no expectation of privacy equipment that the employer knew contained evidence of crimes committed by the employee in the employees office. This situation may be contrasted with one in which the criminal acts of a government employee were unrelated to his employment. Here, there was a conjunction of the conduct that violated the employers policy and the conduct that violated the criminal law. We consider that FBIS intrusion into Simons office to retrieve the hard drive is one in which

a reasonable employer might engage. x x x42[42] (Citations omitted; emphasis supplied.)

This Court, in Social Justice Society (SJS) v. Dangerous Drugs Board43[43] which involved the constitutionality of a provision in R.A. No. 9165 requiring mandatory drug testing of candidates for public office, students of secondary and tertiary schools, officers and employees of public and private offices, and persons charged before the prosecutors office with certain offenses, have also recognized the fact that there may be such legitimate intrusion of privacy in the workplace.
The first factor to consider in the matter of reasonableness is the nature of the privacy interest upon which the drug testing, which effects a search within the meaning of Sec. 2, Art. III of the Constitution, intrudes. In this case, the office or workplace serves as the backdrop for the analysis of the privacy expectation of the employees and the reasonableness of drug testing requirement. The employees privacy interest in an office is to a large extent circumscribed by the companys work policies, the collective bargaining agreement, if any, entered into by management and the bargaining unit, and the inherent right of the employer to maintain discipline and efficiency in the workplace. Their privacy expectation in a regulated office environment is, in fine, reduced; and a degree of impingement upon such privacy has been upheld. (Emphasis supplied.)

Applying the analysis and principles announced in OConnor and Simons to the case at bar, we now address the following questions: (1) Did petitioner have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his office and computer files?; and (2) Was the search authorized by the CSC Chair, the copying of the contents of the hard drive on petitioners computer reasonable in its inception and scope? In this inquiry, the relevant surrounding circumstances to consider include (1) the employees relationship to the item seized; (2) whether the item was in the
42[42] Id. 43[43] Supra note 27 at 432-433.

immediate control of the employee when it was seized; and (3) whether the employee took actions to maintain his privacy in the item. These factors are relevant to both the subjective and objective prongs of the reasonableness inquiry, and we consider the two questions together.44[44] Thus, where the employee used a password on his computer, did not share his office with co-workers and kept the same locked, he had a legitimate expectation of privacy and any search of that space and items located therein must comply with the Fourth Amendment. 45[45] We answer the first in the negative. Petitioner failed to prove that he had an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy either in his office or government-issued computer which contained his personal files. Petitioner did not allege that he had a separate enclosed office which he did not share with anyone, or that his office was always locked and not open to other employees or visitors. Neither did he allege that he used passwords or adopted any means to prevent other employees from accessing his computer files. On the contrary, he submits that being in the public assistance office of the CSC-ROIV, he normally would have visitors in his office like friends, associates and even unknown people, whom he even allowed to use his computer which to him seemed a trivial request. He described his office as full of people, his friends, unknown people and that in the past 22 years he had been discharging his functions at the PALD, he is personally assisting incoming clients, receiving documents, drafting cases on appeals, in charge of accomplishment report, Mamamayan Muna Program, Public Sector Unionism, Correction of name, accreditation of service, and hardly had anytime for himself

44[44] U.S. v. Barrows, 481 F.3d 1246, C.A.10 (Okla.), April 3, 2007, citing United States v. Anderson, 154 F.3d 1225, 1229 (10th Cir. 1998). 45[45] U.S. v. Ziegler, 474 F.3d 1184 C.A.9 (Mont.), January 30, 2007.

alone, that in fact he stays in the office as a paying customer.46[46] Under this scenario, it can hardly be deduced that petitioner had such expectation of privacy that society would recognize as reasonable.

Moreover, even assuming arguendo, in the absence of allegation or proof of the aforementioned factual circumstances, that petitioner had at least a subjective expectation of privacy in his computer as he claims, such is negated by the presence of policy regulating the use of office computers, as in Simons. Office Memorandum No. 10, S. 2002 Computer Use Policy (CUP) explicitly provides:
POLICY 1. The Computer Resources are the property of the Civil Service Commission and may be used only for legitimate business purposes. 2. Users shall be permitted access to Computer Resources to assist them in the performance of their respective jobs. 3. Use of the Computer Resources is a privilege that may be revoked at any given time. xxxx No Expectation of Privacy 4. No expectation of privacy. Users except the Members of the Commission shall not have an expectation of privacy in anything they create, store, send, or receive on the computer system. The Head of the Office for Recruitment, Examination and Placement shall select and assign Users to handle the confidential examination data and processes.

46[46] CA rollo, pp. 42, 61.

5.

Waiver of privacy rights. Users expressly waive any right to privacy in anything they create, store, send, or receive on the computer through the Internet or any other computer network. Users understand that the CSC may use human or automated means to monitor the use of its Computer Resources. Non-exclusivity of Computer Resources. A computer resource is not a personal property or for the exclusive use of a User to whom a memorandum of receipt (MR) has been issued. It can be shared or operated by other users. However, he is accountable therefor and must insure its care and maintenance.

6.

xxxx Passwords 12. Responsibility for passwords. Users shall be responsible for safeguarding their passwords for access to the computer system. Individual passwords shall not be printed, stored online, or given to others. Users shall be responsible for all transactions made using their passwords. No User may access the computer system with another Users password or account. Passwords do not imply privacy. Use of passwords to gain access to the computer system or to encode particular files or messages does not imply that Users have an expectation of privacy in the material they create or receive on the computer system. The Civil Service Commission has global passwords that permit access to all materials stored on its networked computer system regardless of whether those materials have been encoded with a particular Users password. Only members of the Commission shall authorize the application of the said global passwords.

13.

x x x x47[47] (Emphasis supplied.)

The CSC in this case had implemented a policy that put its employees on notice that they have no expectation of privacy in anything they create, store, send or receive on the office computers, and that the CSC may monitor the use of the computer resources using both automated or human means. This implies that onthe-spot inspections may be done to ensure that the computer resources were used only for such legitimate business purposes.
47[47] Id. at 440-443.

One of the factors stated in OConnor which are relevant in determining whether an employees expectation of privacy in the workplace is reasonable is the existence of a workplace privacy policy.48[48] In one case, the US Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit held that a state university employee has not shown that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his computer files where the universitys computer policy, the computer user is informed not to expect privacy if the university has a legitimate reason to conduct a search. The user is specifically told that computer files, including e-mail, can be searched when the university is responding to a discovery request in the course of litigation. Petitioner employee thus cannot claim a violation of Fourth Amendment rights when university officials conducted a warrantless search of his computer for workrelated materials.49[49] As to the second point of inquiry on the reasonableness of the search conducted on petitioners computer, we answer in the affirmative. The search of petitioners computer files was conducted in connection with investigation of work-related misconduct prompted by an anonymous lettercomplaint addressed to Chairperson David regarding anomalies in the CSC-ROIV where the head of the Mamamayan Muna Hindi Mamaya Na division is supposedly lawyering for individuals with pending cases in the CSC. Chairperson David stated in her sworn affidavit:
8. That prior to this, as early as 2006, the undersigned has received several text messages from unknown sources adverting to certain anomalies in Civil

48[48] Biby v. Board of Regents, of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, 419 F.3d 845 C.A.8 (Neb), August 22, 2005. 49[49] Id.

Service Commission Regional Office IV (CSCRO IV) such as, staff working in another government agency, selling cases and aiding parties with pending cases, all done during office hours and involved the use of government properties; 9. 10. That said text messages were not investigated for lack of any verifiable leads and details sufficient to warrant an investigation; That the anonymous letter provided the lead and details as it pinpointed the persons and divisions involved in the alleged irregularities happening in CSCRO IV; That in view of the seriousness of the allegations of irregularities happening in CSCRO IV and its effect on the integrity of the Commission, I decided to form a team of Central Office staff to back up the files in the computers of the Public Assistance and Liaison Division (PALD) and Legal Division;

11.

x x x x50[50]

A search by a government employer of an employees office is justified at inception when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that it will turn up evidence that the employee is guilty of work-related misconduct.51[51] Thus, in the 2004 case decided by the US Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit, it was held that where a government agencys computer use policy prohibited electronic messages with pornographic content and in addition expressly provided that employees do not have any personal privacy rights regarding their use of the agency information systems and technology, the government employee had no legitimate expectation of privacy as to the use and contents of his office computer, and therefore evidence found during warrantless search of the computer was admissible in prosecution for child pornography. In that case, the defendant employees computer hard drive was first remotely examined by a computer information technician after his supervisor received complaints that he was inaccessible and had copied and
50[50] CA rollo, p. 639. 51[51] U.S. v. Thorn, 375 F.3d 679, C.A.8 (Mo.), July 13, 2004.

distributed non-work-related e-mail messages throughout the office. When the supervisor confirmed that defendant had used his computer to access the prohibited websites, in contravention of the express policy of the agency, his computer tower and floppy disks were taken and examined. A formal administrative investigation ensued and later search warrants were secured by the police department. The initial remote search of the hard drive of petitioners computer, as well as the subsequent warrantless searches was held as valid under the OConnor ruling that a public employer can investigate work-related misconduct so long as any search is justified at inception and is reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified it in the first place.52[52] Under the facts obtaining, the search conducted on petitioners computer was justified at its inception and scope. We quote with approval the CSCs discussion on the reasonableness of its actions, consistent as it were with the guidelines established by OConnor:
Even conceding for a moment that there is no such administrative policy, there is no doubt in the mind of the Commission that the search of Pollos computer has successfully passed the test of reasonableness for warrantless searches in the workplace as enunciated in the above-discussed American authorities. It bears emphasis that the Commission pursued the search in its capacity as a government employer and that it was undertaken in connection with an investigation involving a work-related misconduct, one of the circumstances exempted from the warrant requirement. At the inception of the search, a complaint was received recounting that a certain division chief in the CSCRO No. IV was lawyering for parties having pending cases with the said regional office or in the Commission. The nature of the imputation was serious, as it was grievously disturbing. If, indeed, a CSC employee was found to be furtively engaged in the practice of lawyering for parties with pending cases before the Commission would be a highly repugnant scenario, then such a case would have shattering repercussions. It would undeniably cast clouds of doubt upon the institutional integrity of the Commission as a quasi-judicial 52[52] Id.

agency, and in the process, render it less effective in fulfilling its mandate as an impartial and objective dispenser of administrative justice. It is settled that a court or an administrative tribunal must not only be actually impartial but must be seen to be so, otherwise the general public would not have any trust and confidence in it. Considering the damaging nature of the accusation, the Commission had to act fast, if only to arrest or limit any possible adverse consequence or fallout. Thus, on the same date that the complaint was received, a search was forthwith conducted involving the computer resources in the concerned regional office. That it was the computers that were subjected to the search was justified since these furnished the easiest means for an employee to encode and store documents. Indeed, the computers would be a likely starting point in ferreting out incriminating evidence. Concomitantly, the ephemeral nature of computer files, that is, they could easily be destroyed at a click of a button, necessitated drastic and immediate action. Pointedly, to impose the need to comply with the probable cause requirement would invariably defeat the purpose of the wok-related investigation. Worthy to mention, too, is the fact that the Commission effected the warrantless search in an open and transparent manner. Officials and some employees of the regional office, who happened to be in the vicinity, were on hand to observe the process until its completion. In addition, the respondent himself was duly notified, through text messaging, of the search and the concomitant retrieval of files from his computer. All in all, the Commission is convinced that the warrantless search done on computer assigned to Pollo was not, in any way, vitiated with unconstitutionality. It was a reasonable exercise of the managerial prerogative of the Commission as an employer aimed at ensuring its operational effectiveness and efficiency by going after the work-related misfeasance of its employees. Consequently, the evidence derived from the questioned search are deemed admissible.53[53]

Petitioners claim of violation of his constitutional right to privacy must necessarily fail. His other argument invoking the privacy of communication and correspondence under Section 3(1), Article III of the 1987 Constitution is also untenable considering the recognition accorded to certain legitimate intrusions into the privacy of employees in the government workplace under the aforecited
53[53] CA rollo, pp. 611-612.

authorities. We likewise find no merit in his contention that OConnor and Simons are not relevant because the present case does not involve a criminal offense like child pornography. As already mentioned, the search of petitioners computer was justified there being reasonable ground for suspecting that the files stored therein would yield incriminating evidence relevant to the investigation being conducted by CSC as government employer of such misconduct subject of the anonymous complaint. This situation clearly falls under the exception to the warrantless requirement in administrative searches defined in OConnor. The Court is not unaware of our decision in Anonymous Letter-Complaint against Atty. Miguel Morales, Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila54[54] involving a branch clerk (Atty. Morales) who was investigated on the basis of an anonymous letter alleging that he was consuming his working hours filing and attending to personal cases, using office supplies, equipment and utilities. The OCA conducted a spot investigation aided by NBI agents. The team was able to access Atty. Morales personal computer and print two documents stored in its hard drive, which turned out to be two pleadings, one filed in the CA and another in the RTC of Manila, both in the name of another lawyer. Atty. Morales computer was seized and taken in custody of the OCA but was later ordered released on his motion, but with order to the MISO to first retrieve the files stored therein. The OCA disagreed with the report of the Investigating Judge that there was no evidence to support the charge against Atty. Morales as no one from the OCC personnel who were interviewed would give a categorical and positive statement affirming the charges against Atty. Morales, along with other court personnel also charged in the same case. The OCA recommended that Atty.
54[54] A.M. Nos. P-08-2519 and P-08-2520, November 19, 2008, 571 SCRA 361.

Morales should be found guilty of gross misconduct. The Court En Banc held that while Atty. Morales may have fallen short of the exacting standards required of every court employee, the Court cannot use the evidence obtained from his personal computer against him for it violated his constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Court found no evidence to support the claim of OCA that they were able to obtain the subject pleadings with the consent of Atty. Morales, as in fact the latter immediately filed an administrative case against the persons who conducted the spot investigation, questioning the validity of the investigation and specifically invoking his constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure. And as there is no other evidence, apart from the pleadings, retrieved from the unduly confiscated personal computer of Atty. Morales, to hold him administratively liable, the Court had no choice but to dismiss the charges against him for insufficiency of evidence. The above case is to be distinguished from the case at bar because, unlike the former which involved a personal computer of a court employee, the computer from which the personal files of herein petitioner were retrieved is a governmentissued computer, hence government property the use of which the CSC has absolute right to regulate and monitor. Such relationship of the petitioner with the item seized (office computer) and other relevant factors and circumstances under American Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, notably the existence of CSC MO 10, S. 2007 on Computer Use Policy, failed to establish that petitioner had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the office computer assigned to him. Having determined that the personal files copied from the office computer of petitioner are admissible in the administrative case against him, we now proceed to

the issue of whether the CSC was correct in finding the petitioner guilty of the charges and dismissing him from the service. Well-settled is the rule that the findings of fact of quasi-judicial agencies, like the CSC, are accorded not only respect but even finality if such findings are supported by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is such amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, even if other equally reasonable minds might conceivably opine otherwise.55[55] The CSC based its findings on evidence consisting of a substantial number of drafts of legal pleadings and documents stored in his office computer, as well as the sworn affidavits and testimonies of the witnesses it presented during the formal investigation. According to the CSC, these documents were confirmed to be similar or exactly the same content-wise with those on the case records of some cases pending either with CSCRO No. IV, CSC-NCR or the Commission Proper. There were also substantially similar copies of those pleadings filed with the CA and duly furnished the Commission. Further, the CSC found the explanation given by petitioner, to the effect that those files retrieved from his computer hard drive actually belonged to his lawyer friends Estrellado and Solosa whom he allowed the use of his computer for drafting their pleadings in the cases they handle, as implausible and doubtful under the circumstances. We hold that the CSCs factual finding regarding the authorship of the subject pleadings and misuse of the office computer is well-supported by the evidence on record, thus:
55[55] Vertudes v. Buenaflor, G.R. No. 153166, December 16, 2005, 478 SCRA 210, 230, citing Rosario v. Victory Ricemill, G.R. No. 147572, February 19, 2003, 397 SCRA 760, 766 and Bagong Bayan Corp., Realty Investors and Developers v. NLRC, G.R. No. 61272, September 29, 1989, 178 SCRA 107.

It is also striking to note that some of these documents were in the nature of pleadings responding to the orders, decisions or resolutions of these offices or directly in opposition to them such as a petition for certiorari or a motion for reconsideration of CSC Resolution. This indicates that the author thereof knowingly and willingly participated in the promotion or advancement of the interests of parties contrary or antagonistic to the Commission. Worse, the appearance in one of the retrieved documents the phrase, Eric N. Estr[e]llado, Epal kulang ang bayad mo, lends plausibility to an inference that the preparation or drafting of the legal pleadings was pursued with less than a laudable motivation. Whoever was responsible for these documents was simply doing the same for the money a legal mercenary selling or purveying his expertise to the highest bidder, so to speak. Inevitably, the fact that these documents were retrieved from the computer of Pollo raises the presumption that he was the author thereof. This is because he had a control of the said computer. More significantly, one of the witnesses, Margarita Reyes, categorically testified seeing a written copy of one of the pleadings found in the case records lying on the table of the respondent. This was the Petition for Review in the case of Estrellado addressed to the Court of Appeals. The said circumstances indubitably demonstrate that Pollo was secretly undermining the interest of the Commission, his very own employer. To deflect any culpability, Pollo would, however, want the Commission to believe that the documents were the personal files of some of his friends, including one Attorney Ponciano Solosa, who incidentally served as his counsel of record during the formal investigation of this case. In fact, Atty. Solosa himself executed a sworn affidavit to this effect. Unfortunately, this contention of the respondent was directly rebutted by the prosecution witness, Reyes, who testified that during her entire stay in the PALD, she never saw Atty. Solosa using the computer assigned to the respondent. Reyes more particularly stated that she worked in close proximity with Pollo and would have known if Atty. Solosa, whom she personally knows, was using the computer in question. Further, Atty. Solosa himself was never presented during the formal investigation to confirm his sworn statement such that the same constitutes self-serving evidence unworthy of weight and credence. The same is true with the other supporting affidavits, which Pollo submitted. At any rate, even admitting for a moment the said contention of the respondent, it evinces the fact that he was unlawfully authorizing private persons to use the computer assigned to him for official purpose, not only once but several times gauging by the number of pleadings, for ends not in conformity with the interests of the Commission. He was, in effect, acting as a principal by indispensable cooperationOr at the very least, he should be responsible for serious misconduct for repeatedly allowing CSC resources, that is, the computer and the electricity, to be utilized for purposes other than what they were officially intended.

Further, the Commission cannot lend credence to the posturing of the appellant that the line appearing in one of the documents, Eric N. Estrellado, Epal kulang ang bayad mo, was a private joke between the person alluded to therein, Eric N. Estrellado, and his counsel, Atty. Solosa, and not indicative of anything more sinister. The same is too preposterous to be believed. Why would such a statement appear in a legal pleading stored in the computer assigned to the respondent, unless he had something to do with it?56[56]

Petitioner assails the CA in not ruling that the CSC should not have entertained an anonymous complaint since Section 8 of CSC Resolution No. 991936 (URACC) requires a verified complaint:
Rule II Disciplinary Cases SEC. 8. Complaint. - A complaint against a civil service official or employee shall not be given due course unless it is in writing and subscribed and sworn to by the complainant. However, in cases initiated by the proper disciplining authority, the complaint need not be under oath. No anonymous complaint shall be entertained unless there is obvious truth or merit to the allegation therein or supported by documentary or direct evidence, in which case the person complained of may be required to comment. xxxx

We need not belabor this point raised by petitioner. The administrative complaint is deemed to have been initiated by the CSC itself when Chairperson David, after a spot inspection and search of the files stored in the hard drive of computers in the two divisions adverted to in the anonymous letter -- as part of the disciplining authoritys own fact-finding investigation and information-gathering -found a prima facie case against the petitioner who was then directed to file his

56[56] CA rollo, pp. 616-617.

comment. As this Court held in Civil Service Commission v. Court of Appeals57[57] -Under Sections 46 and 48 (1), Chapter 6, Subtitle A, Book V of E.O. No. 292 and Section 8, Rule II of Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, a complaint may be initiated against a civil service officer or employee by the appropriate disciplining authority, even without being subscribed and sworn to. Considering that the CSC, as the disciplining authority for Dumlao, filed the complaint, jurisdiction over Dumlao was validly acquired. (Emphasis supplied.)

As to petitioners challenge on the validity of CSC OM 10, S. 2002 (CUP), the same deserves scant consideration. The alleged infirmity due to the said memorandum order having been issued solely by the CSC Chair and not the Commission as a collegial body, upon which the dissent of Commissioner Buenaflor is partly anchored, was already explained by Chairperson David in her Reply to the Addendum to Commissioner Buenaflors previous memo expressing his dissent to the actions and disposition of the Commission in this case. According to Chairperson David, said memorandum order was in fact exhaustively discussed, provision by provision in the January 23, 2002 Commission Meeting, attended by her and former Commissioners Erestain, Jr. and Valmores. Hence, the Commission En Banc at the time saw no need to issue a Resolution for the purpose and further because the CUP being for internal use of the Commission, the practice had been to issue a memorandum order.58[58] Moreover, being an administrative rule that is merely internal in nature, or which regulates only the personnel of the CSC and not the public, the CUP need not be published prior to its

57[57] G.R. No. 147009, March 11, 2004, 425 SCRA 394, 401. 58[58] Rollo, p. 299.

effectivity.59[59] In fine, no error or grave abuse of discretion was committed by the CA in affirming the CSCs ruling that petitioner is guilty of grave misconduct, dishonesty, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and violation of R.A. No. 6713. The gravity of these offenses justified the imposition on petitioner of the ultimate penalty of dismissal with all its accessory penalties, pursuant to existing rules and regulations. WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is DENIED. The Decision dated October 11, 2007 and Resolution dated February 29, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 98224 are AFFIRMED. With costs against the petitioner. SO ORDERED.

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR. Associate Justice WE CONCUR:

RENATO C. CORONA
59[59] See Taada v. Hon. Tuvera, 230 Phil. 528, 535 (1986).

Chief Justice

See Separate Concurring Opinion ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice

I join opinion of J. Bersamin PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. Associate Justice

I join the concurring and dissenting opinion of Justice Bersamin TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO Associate Justice

ARTURO D. BRION Associate Justice

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA Associate Justice

Please see Concurring & Dissenting Opinion LUCAS P. BERSAMIN Associate Justice

(No Part) MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO Associate Justice I join Justice L. Bersamins concurring and dissenting opinion ROBERTO A. ABAD Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ Associate Justice

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA Associate Justice

I concur but share J. Carpios concerns MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO Associate Justice

BIENVENIDO L. REYES Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

RENATO C. CORONA Chief Justice